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How advanced networks bring the digital workplace to life



By Lawrence Van Deusen: Group Networking Practice Director, Wired and Wireless Dimension Data and Jon Howell: HPE Aruba, Mobile Engagement EMEA

The nature of work is changing, as many organisations move towards a mobile-first mindset, looking to empower their teams with flexible workspaces and tools to work securely from anywhere, and on any device.

But before we become overly-enamoured by the array of new applications and devices available for the modern workplace, it’s important to remember that one’s network is the foundation that makes every new innovation possible.

The network underpins the entire digital workplace value chain – from the overall strategy and design, to the applications, the end-points and devices, the infrastructure optimisation, the security defences, and the analytics requirements.

For businesses looking to truly embrace the benefits of digitisation and transformation, local WAN networks must evolve dramatically, ensuring that teams can benefit from ‘smart-workplace’ tools and services.

More than just a network

So, just what are business leaders expecting from their network?

The recent Dimension Data Digital Workplace Report reveals some of the most pressing concerns, which include the need to:

  • embrace consumerisation of IT
  • migrate collaboration apps to the cloud
  • truly harness the potential of enterprise mobility
  • enhance and automate business processes
  • improve employee productivity
  • enable the organisation to integrate into exciting new digital ecosystems and value-chains

For CIOs, the task is broader than merely building faster, more powerful networks. They must support a vast array of sophisticated applications and services – everything from smart building management that improves environmental efficiencies, to asset tracking within the organisation, to location services like indoor way-finding.

Optimised, modernised network infrastructure pulls all of this together into a unified way, supporting the real-time flow of data between users and between new connected devices.

It requires a step-change in the way we approach network design, as we evolve from simple connectivity and instead see the network as the digital platform that makes next-generation workplace experiences possible.

So, for example, guest Wi-Fi administration can be synced with visitor access, or presence awareness tools can interact with humidity sensors to create the optimal workplace environment. Beacons and smart sensors can be used to better understand how people interact with their environment – the insights from these devices reveal trends, and show how the physical and digital realms can be brought together by intelligent network design – combining the right technologies with the best workspace design to enable creativity, collaboration and innovation.

New threats emerge

The future of the digital workplace is certainly an exciting one. New types of mobile and Internet of Things devices are being brought onto the network, and we’re exploring new communication channels like voice-controlled devices, rich-feature video conferencing and even immersive virtual and augmented reality tools.

Ultra-fast mobile networks are extending corporate services to staff wherever they may be; while a new wave of microservices, APIs and open-source standards are making it possible for organisations to fluidly integrate with others in their ecosystem.

But, on the flip side, every new channel, device or integration point can potentially expose another attack surface to cybercriminals.

As networks evolve and become central to one’s digitisation strategy, CIOs and CSOs must place a high emphasis on securing the data that traverses the network, to effectively deal with intensifying threats from hackers.

Enabling flexible, dynamic and responsive workplaces

Ensuring that organisations are able to navigate their way to the workplace of the future, requires modernising networks that can meet the demands of mobility and IoT.

To attract the very best talent, particularly from the millennial generation, firms must provide work spaces that are flexible, dynamic and responsive to their needs. Applications must be instantly available, allowing them to collaborate easily and unleashing the creativity of every individual, demanding a mobile-first infrastructure that is designed and fit for purpose for the modern digital workplace.

At the same time, facilities management needs a network that provides rich insights into how physical spaces are used – so they can continually optimise the environment.

To make this possible, the network must become the ‘echo chamber’ of the organisation, reflecting the insights from every device or sensor that connects to the network, to give the business a real-time view of users who are engaging with their environment.

Ultimately, the digital workplace depends on powerful, flexible and secure networks, that address the needs of modern enterprise users, and are designed to cater for the exciting future of intelligent devices and applications.

Next Article: Your digital future: what's holding your business back?

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